Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Way Forward for Conservative Evangelicals

The election is over and President Obama has won another four years. The fate of the GOP was sealed with the nomination of Mitt Romney, and Evangelicals knew it. Evangelicals vote for Mitt Romney. A few Evangelicals altered their theology and terminology in favor of Mitt Romney. But Romney was not the choice of Evangelicals.

Why did Evangelicals vote for Mitt Romney? Because they did not believe that they had any other good choice. That's what has to change. Trust me: Somewhere in America there's a Bob Dole IV, and whoever he is, today he is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2016. If Evangelicals want to have more and better options, Evangelicals are going to have to create them. I'm happy to get the ball rolling by offering a few thoughts

  1. The hard work of prioritizing our convictions lies before us. This will be the universal conclusion drawn this morning by Republicans, although different Republicans will apply the process differently. The major elements of Republican ideology are, in my estimation: (1)Free-Market Capitalism, (2)The Pro-Life Agenda, (3)Hawkish Foreign Policy, (4)Constitutionalism, (5)Nativism and Anti-Immigrationism, (6)The Law & Order Agenda, and (7)The Anti-Homosexuality Agenda.

    I didn't take four weeks to develop that list, but instead threw it together on the fly. Perhaps I've missed something important, but I feel pretty good about it as top-of-my-head efforts go.

    We're going to have to prioritize these things, as I said. And we're going to have to do so with some of these other factors in mind.

  2. The Republican Party has to add not merely individual voters to its rolls, but larger and more rapidly growing blocs of voters. This is where the GOP ought to listen to Evangelicals if it wants to survive. Evangelicalism is growing among African-Americans and Latinos. The GOP is not. Obviously, Evangelicalism is not the cause of Republican demographic woes, for in the key ethnic groups that brought woe to the GOP last night, Evangelicals are succeeding.

    The question is: If the GOP persists in alienating African-American and Latino Evangelicals, then among White Republican Evangelicals, which of those three words will win out? Will we stand in coalition with fellow Evangelicals, with fellow Republicans, or just with fellow white people? I think we should stand with Evangelicals in the political arena.

    Of the ideological elements given above, two stand out as highly problematic: the question of immigration and the question of economic theory. The economic question is not as troubling as it may seem. The country could become a bit more oriented toward Free-Market Capitalism while maintaining a commitment to the social safety net. I think that the safety net concept is important to these demographic groups. Principled opposition to the safety net is probably not going to take root here, but Bill Clinton accomplished welfare reform, yet he retains robust support among these folks.

    The immigration question is where the problem lies. And, to speak frankly, some of the more extreme rhetoric on immigration from within the GOP is wrongheaded and wronghearted. I believe that there is an enormous pool of (potentially?) committed Pro-Life Evangelicals who could be developed from within the Hispanic community, but we'll never know so long as Pro-Life Evangelicals are wedded to a severe immigration platform plank.

    As for African-Americans, it seemed to me that quite a number of them were not happy with the gay-rights agenda within the Democratic Party, but where else could they go? I can relate to their feelings: I wasn't thrilled with Mitt Romney (nor were many of you), but we didn't have a lot of options open to us, did we? The major obstacles, I suspect, are fiscal rather than cultural in nature.

    Although the phrase "compassionate conservatism" is probably beyond rehabilitation at this point, a fusion between a more mercy-themed fiscal policy and a strong social conservatism could be a game-changer within the African-American community (if everyone were acting in good faith). At the very least, it is a conversation worth having. I'm not sure that I understand completely what policy changes would have to take place in order to form a coalition between Pro-Life White Evangelicals and Pro-Life Black Evangelicals, but I'm at least willing to ask that question and learn the answer.

    What concerns me is that a conversation has taken place this year among African-American Evangelicals over how their relationship with the Democratic Party will be affected by the radical Democrat sexual agenda, and Pro-Life White Evangelicals never even entered that conversation in any meaningful way. Maybe we don't succeed at building coalitions with African-Americans over justice for the unborn because we don't try very hard to build those coalitions in the first place—not in any way in which we are willing to concede as much as we are asking them to concede.

I'd love to write more, but I'm out of time for today. Rather than stitch together a mega-post over several days, I' think I'll just go ahead and sally forth with this much of whats swimming around in my head and get your reactions, with the promise of more to come.